Tuesday 2 February 2016
When I was planning this trip a couple of weeks ago I was very much undecided as to what hills to do on the second day. Originally I had looked at the group of hills just north of Merthyr Tydfil – Cefn Yr Ystrad, Waun Ryyd and Tor y Foel. There were various reasons why I rejected them but primarily it was one of maximum reward within a given time bearing in mind I had a 3 hour drive after I had finished to get home. In the end I decided that the best pairing with minimum driving was Pen y Fan and Fan Fawr
VX-8 plus RSS 2M dipole. (I had made the decision that morning to reduce the weight of the rucksack and do away with HF).
Pen y Fan GW/SW-001
After a very good nights sleep and an excellent breakfast at my Premier Inn in Aberdare I headed north on the road to Brecon arriving at the Pen y Fan car park at about 0845 (SN 987198). There were already several cars in the car park so I guessed I wasn’t going to have a quiet day today – but the mountain is big enough so it wasn’t going to be a problem. Last time I was here was 45 years ago as a young 14 year old and I didn’t remember the motorway that now winds its way up the side of the mountain. I suppose at the end of the day its that fine line between allowing access to the masses with an element of damage limitation. At least virtually everyone I saw that morning were properly dressed for the environment!
Packing my now redundant GPS, map and compass away in my rucksack I set off up the M4 extension for very pleasant walk to the col then skirting around Corn Du and up to the summit of Pen y Fan. As I gained height I felt the wind get stronger but even when on the exposed summit platform the gusts were not as strong as they had been the day before. Distance 1.78 miles, Ascent 1440 feet Time Taken 1hr15.
Self spotting on 2-fm, I quickly opened the account with Mal GW6OVD who was the first of 8 QSO’s all within 12 minutes. The best DX was Don G0RQL in Holsworthy, N Devon but the highlight was 3 summit to summit QSO’s. Initially I was called by Vicky MW6BWA/P from Mynydd Carn y Cefn GW/SW-014 (were I had been yesterday), this was followed by Rod MW0JLA/P on the same hill. Then towards the end of my activation I was called by Allan GW4VPX/P on Tor y Foel GW/SW-013.
Fan Fawr GW/SW-005
I made quick work of my descent as I didn’t want to waste any time sight seeing before heading 500 yards up the road to the car park opposite the Storey Arms Centre (SN 982203). Having looked at Fan Fawr from the decent of Pen y Fan I had seen the ephemeral track that makes its way up to the summit from the Storey Arms car park however, this path was not so clear from ground level. Using the GPS and the map I just made a beeline for the scarring on the final approach to the summit. On occasions the path was obvious and progress was good, the final pull up through the badly scarred area was a bit tricky due to the amount of water flowing off the top. Distance 1.45 miles, Ascent 953 feet, Time Taken 45 mins
The wind here seemed stronger than it had on Pen y Fan so I didn’t venture too far onto the summit plateau but stayed just within the AZ to avoid the worst of the wind. I put out a few calls on 145.500MHz and made contact with 3 local stations in fairly quick order, one of which I tail-ended. However, the calls dried up so a self spot onto Sotawatch brought GW6OVD into the log to qualify the hill. Mal spotted me as well for which I thank you but there were no further contacts.
Mission accomplished, all hills activated and qualified now just to get down, back to the car and home. However, as I got myself back up onto my feet I realised that my legs were not in a good state. This had been the most climbing I had done in a concentrated period for many years especially having done almost 2500 feet in one morning, my poor body was not used to it. The instability of my legs however, reunited me with something I used to do as a teenager when coming down hill – rump bumping! This is when you sled downhill on your derrière. I this case today though it was totally unplanned but brought on by a loss of footing just as I came off the summit. Quickly recovering my posture, I realised it was actually a quicker and probably safer way to descent using my walking poles to control the speed of descent in much the same way as you would use an ice axe. You don’t know how good it felt to act like a teenager again, I am just glad there was no one else around to see my irresponsible antics. On the plus side I was off the hill in about 25 minutes and the downside was explaining to the XYL why my trousers were so dirty.
Anyway composure regained as I made the final descent top the car park I could see someone near the cars looking towards me with what looked like binoculars. This is very disconcerting as you worry that the behavioural police are out to tell me off for ‘rump bumping’ at my age and setting a bad example. I needn’t have worried because as I draw closer in noted a SOTA badge on the hat of the person in the car park. It was indeed Allan GW4VPX there to greet me off the hill. This was a very pleasant surprise as it is the first time that I have ever met another SOTA activator in the wild, so to speak. We chatted for a short while but then bade our farewells as we both had pressing engagements. It was a shame that we couldn’t have chatted more but at least we did have time for a joint selfie. Thanks Allan great to meet you.
Today had been a real challenge for me primarily because of the height I was planning to do in the one day. It had been many years since I done 2500 feet in a day so I was curious to see how well I performed. I was happy with how things went and I now know that I can take on most summits that I want to do. I have really enjoyed the two days spent in the Brecon area, done some great walking and seen some spectacular scenery. Unfortunately it is now back to work but I will be back before the end of February – weather permitting.
73 Glyn G(W)4CFS